Boston Bruins: 7 Players Who Need to Step Up to Make Another Cup Run Possible
Following a sluggish stretch in which the Boston Bruins gave up an uncharacteristically high goals-against average, the B's have turned things around and seem poised to enter the playoffs on a high note.
However, the stretch of poor play a couple of weeks ago has some reason for concern for Bruins fans.
Whether it be fatigue, injuries or players struggling, the Bruins need to end the season on a high note in order to have the necessary mindset heading into another Stanley Cup run.
This is the time that a player's true colors are shown and for some Boston Bruins players, their game needs a jolt before the run to the Stanley Cup begins.
Let's take a look at seven players who need to improve their play as of late.
It is safe to say that GM Peter Chiarelli missed on Joe Corvo.
Corvo, acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes before the season, has been a major disappointment on the blue line for the Bruins and could find himself on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.
Although his assist numbers are solid (21), Corvo has proven that he can not be relied on carrying the puck out of his own end. He has shown that he can commit costly turnovers that lead to opponents' scoring chances.
With the acquisition of Greg Zanon at the trade deadline, Corvo could find himself without a spot in the defensive rotation that also includes Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid, Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk and Zanon.
Corvo will have to show coach Claude Julien something special over the remaining regular-season games in order to crack the lineup when the playoffs start. Otherwise, Corvo could find himself a healthy scratch for much of the postseason.
Zdeno Chara has the hardest shot on the Bruins, but fellow defenseman Johnny Boychuk isn't far behind.
With a 100-plus-mph slap shot, Boychuk is a great offensive weapon at the blue line for the B's. Boychuk also is a physical presence who isn't afraid to mix it up with opponents.
With Chara and Dennis Seidenberg almost assured to be paired together for the playoffs, Boychuk must carry the load for the other blue-line tandems.
Boychuk signed a three-year contract worth $3.36 million per season earlier this season, rewarding his hard work over the past couple of seasons.
However, if Boychuk wants to cement himself as upper-tier defenseman in the Eastern Conference, he'll have to prove his worth in the playoffs.
Boychuk doesn't necessarily have to score goals, but he must not make unnecessary turnovers that lead to goal-scoring chances. He also must use his physicality to intimidate other forwards and occasionally jump up into the offense if an opportunity presents itself.
Rich Peverley is a difference-maker for the Black and Gold.
The rough patch that the Bruins hit was during Peverley's absence from the lineup due to injury and his return could prove to be the difference in the Bruins' Stanley Cup chances.
Peverley is a great skater who can finish around the net and he has the ability to set up teammates from anywhere on the ice.
Although his game isn't flashy, his skills are vital in the Boston lineup.
Considered a relatively small acquisition at the trade deadline last season, Peverley proved he could play, helping the B's capture the Cup.
This season, Peverley could have the same impact, as his return fills out the top two lines and creates more depth at the forward position.
Tyler Seguin has made tremendous strides in his second full season in the NHL.
The 20-year-old forward shares the team lead in goals scored with 26 as well as having the team lead in plus/minus with a plus-28 rating.
Seguin sat out much of the 2011 playoffs but made a big impact when he played, including a two-goal performance in a Eastern Conference Final game against Tampa Bay.
Entering his second postseason, Seguin will be a main cog offensively for the Bruins and must use his amazing skating ability to create chances for himself as well as his linemates.
The advantage Seguin could have is his youth, meaning his legs could be fresher than the rest of his teammates during the past two grueling seasons.
If Boston plans to make a deep playoff run, this young star must show the world why he was the second overall pick in the 2010 draft.
If the term "power forward" applies to any player, it's Milan Lucic.
Lucic uses his unique combination of size, physicality and skill to outmatch other teams' top lines and is not afraid to drop the gloves to defend his teammates.
In the 2011 regular season, Lucic had his first 30-goal season but seemed to fizzle during the playoffs.
Lucic was not the goal-scorer that fans saw in the regular season, tallying only five goals in 25 games.
This postseason, Lucic must be more of a factor on the offensive end to help make up for the loss of Nathan Horton and not having the playoff performance of Michael Ryder to rely on again.
Lucic has all of the physical attributes to get it done and the Bruins must have him show up in the 2012 playoffs in order to get past the other skilled teams in the Eastern Conference.
David Krejci has had to deal with a lot of obstacles and distractions this season.
Whether it be losing Nathan Horton, swirling trade speculation or being shuffled between lines, Krejci has had a bit of an up-and-down year.
Coming off a sizzling performance in the Stanley Cup playoffs a season ago, many expected Krejci to carry that over into 2012.
That just hasn't happened.
Inconsistent plays have plagued Krejci this season and he must find consistency down the stretch to help him carry things over into the postseason.
Krejci has all of the talent necessary to be an elite player, but he has yet to find the right balance to put it all together like he did for 25 games in the playoffs last season.
The Bruins need the Krejci of the 2011 playoffs, not the regular-season version of the much-scrutinized forward.
There was no goalie on the planet better than Tim Thomas last season.
From the the beginning of the season through Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Thomas was playing at an unbelievable level.
There is no way to expect that Thomas would come back and play the same way this season, but Thomas has been uncharacteristically shaky down the stretch.
Now, much of that can be attributed to his heavy workload due to the injury to Tuukka Rask, but some of the blame must be placed on Thomas himself.
If the Bruins can get him some needed rest in the next two weeks, Thomas must be the stopper in the net that Bruins fans have come to adore.
Thomas has once proved he can carry a team to the promised land and the Bruins will need another superhero performance from Thomas in order to repeat as champions.